Bloustein school adds new public policy degree


Students interested in public service often gravitate toward majoring in political science, economics and sociology, but the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy’s new major shows these students a different path that can help them reach this career goal.

The school added a Bachelor of Science in Public Policy to its list of undergraduate majors this fall. Stuart Shapiro, director of Bloustein’s Public Policy Program, said this gives students a less conceptual, more hands-on approach for learning how to solve the world’s problems.

Shapiro, who played a role in crafting the major, said public policy is a relatively new field of study — even master’s programs in field have only existed for about 30 years, Shapiro said.

“The understanding of what it means to have [a] bachelor’s degree in public policy is relatively new,” he said. “We are, I think, one of the leaders in that — certainly in this area. We’re not the only ones. There’s a good 30 or 40 other schools, but I do see us becoming a leader in undergraduate education.”

In previous years, the Bloustein School only offered graduate programs in public policy, which gives students a more advanced understanding of the field, Shapiro said. The undergraduate program, on the other hand, teaches students the basics.

Karyn M. Olsen, the school’s director of communications, added that the major introduces students to the use of analytical techniques to better understand public problems and the ability to develop and evaluate alternative solutions to those problems.

The Bloustein School formerly offered an undergraduate major in planning and public policy, he said.

“Essentially now, we’re having what I would term a very amicable divorce, and public policy is now its own major. … Planning and public policy is still on the books and they are engaged in faculty discussion over what to call that major now that public policy is gone, but they haven’t reached a decision,” he said.

The demand for this major was noticed when polls showed that many students majoring in planning and public policy were solely interested in public policy, said Christina Miller, coordinator for Undergraduate Student Services.

What is now the planning and public policy major will now focus more on urban planning and urban studies issues.

The new major is divided into two concentrations, in which they need to take four courses, she said.

The “Using Policy to Alleviate Poverty and Inequality” concentration offers courses such as “Poverty in Developing Nations,” “Gender, Family and Public Policy” and “American Land-Use Policy,” according to Bloustein’s website.

Students concentrating in “Using Policy to Improve Health and the Environment” can take courses like “Globalization and Sustainability,” “Epidemiology” and “Mental Health and Society.”

“Students who are interested in health policy but had to major in public health now have the option of majoring in public policy with a health concentration,” Miller said.

Public policy majors can also create their own concentration with the approval of the program director, she said.

Currently, only one student is enrolled in the program, Miller said, since the major was approved in the summer.

Shapiro said the school plans to launch a publicity campaign over the course of the next few months, which should increase the number of enrollees.

In addition, the school’s graduate program in Urban Planning and Policy Development is going through the reaccreditation process, Olsen said.

“The reaccreditation is essential to keeping the Bloustein School ranked among the top planning programs,” she said. ”At present, our UPPD program is ranked number three in the nation by Planetizen, the leading urban planning news and information website.”

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